Sri Lankan troops nearing Tiger HQ: army chief

October 4, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s army chief said Saturday his troops are on the verge of capturing the key northern headquarters of the Tamil Tigers in Kilinochchi. Foreign aid workers who evacuated the northern region three weeks ago said most residents of Kilinochchi had fled as the fighting moved closer.

The defence ministry said 26 rebels and three soldiers were killed during fighting across the north on Friday.

According to ministry figures, the Tamil Tigers have lost some 7,184 fighters since January.

The military puts its losses at 700 soldiers during the same period. Casualty figures also cannot be verified.

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Army forces had advanced to within two kilometres (1.25 miles) of the rebel stronghold, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka said in a speech at a Buddhist ceremony in the north central town of Anuradhapura.

Wresting control of Kilinochchi would be a major military and psychological blow to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

As the political capital of the LTTE’s northern mini-s